One essential set of tools for violin making is 20-30 spool clamps to attach the top and bottom plates to the rib assembly. Their shape and small size allow them to conform to the round edges of the fiddle without damaging the arching.

These simple tools are not cheap to buy, but they are so simple to make that a builder really has no excuse not to give it a try. There are quite a few tutorials on the web, and if you have a full shop you can get as elaborate as you like. I don’t have a full shop, nor do I have the desire to spend a couple of days cutting, drilling and fussing with various materials to end up with usable clamps. What’s a gal to do?

Another of my “hobbies” is spinning wool into yarn and I sometimes teach classes where I use a simple toy wheel spindle to demonstrate the basics, which necessitates keeping a small supply of toy wheels on hand. Eureka!

These wheels are 1 1/4″ in diameter and have rounded edges (which seems to me like a good idea as they would be less prone to cracking than the flat-sided dowels that many makers use) and can be ordered here in quantity. The 1/4″ x 4″ bolts and wing nuts came from my local hardware store and the sheet of cork is from another project.

The most tedious part was cutting out the little circles of cork and waiting while the glue (just plain white glue in this case) dried so I could drill the holes just a tad larger to allow the wheels to slide freely on the bolts.

String them onto the bolts in pairs, add a wingnut and you’re ready to go! Total cost of each clamp is less than $1.00 – no delays and no postage costs.

I tried some larger wood disks and found that the smaller clamps worked best for gluing the top to the ribs. With the larger disks, the clamps had to be farther apart, leaving gaps where the plate wasn’t totally connecting to the ribs.

These little clamps will prove useful for other projects too, I’m sure.